Anneleen Van Bossuyt MEP banner

Anneleen Van Bossuyt has been an MEP since 2015 and is a member of the Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection and the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy

Describing a typical day in the life of an MEP, is actually an impossible task. And that is not a bad thing, on the contrary. Of course, I need to schedule and plan things weeks ahead, but the variety of things I get to do makes working in the parliament interesting and fun. It’s not a job, it’s an experience.

That said, let’s now describe, not ‘a typical day in the parliament’, but ‘one day in the parliament’.

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I usually wake up around 6 AM and check my e-mails. As a Flemish MEP, I have the privilege of living and working in my own country, near my family and friends. The downside is that my day involves quite some commuting. So, after getting myself ready for work, I wake up my son and daughter and prepare their breakfast. Depending on my schedule, I or a friend of the family takes them to school. Then I take the train from the beautiful city of Flanders, my hometown Ghent, to Brussels. Arriving in Brussels half an hour later, I ride my bike to the Parliament.

Between 8 AM and 9 AM I am in the office where I check some more e-mails, handle the most pressing matters and consult my assistants about what’s on today’s schedule. Concretely this means preparing my speaking note for the IMCO committee in the afternoon, discussing at which events to speak, preparing my intervention for tomorrow’s debate on the Brexit and finally deciding on which amendments to table in order to change some committee proposals for the better etc.

Time is running fast and by 10 AM, I have scheduled the first meetings with lobbyists. I am meeting a representative of DPHL on the cross-border parcel delivery file, another person on the Energy Efficiency directive, as well as someone on the e-service card file, three files among many others, which I am responsible for as a (shadow) rapporteur. To the public, lobbyists often have a negative connotation. However, they are of value to us as they can often provide me with expert knowledge and show me the practical consequences of some decisions we make on European level.

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At 11.30 AM I am quickly off to the event that I am hosting on Horizon 2020: ‘Towards a more business friendly horizon 2020: Recommendations for the European Commission’.  As shadow-rapporteur on the file, I have consulted several companies, SMEs, universities and research facilities over the past few weeks. This gave us a very clear idea of the way in which the program needs to be changed and all of the work culminated in today’s event where I presented 10 recommendations to Commissioner Moedas to make H2020 funding more accessible to companies. With over 70 participants present from across all sectors, I am happy to say that the event was a success!

By 13.30 PM I am finally able to grab a sandwich and walk back to the office. I have some time to relax and chat with my colleagues. By 14 PM I am fully recharged to give an interview to a student, who is doing a PhD on the Europeanization of national political parties. As former assistant at the European Law Department of Ghent University, I am always happy to help students with their final dissertations.

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After the interview, I hurry to one of the conference rooms to welcome some of my constituents in the European Parliament. Today, people often look upon the European Union as an alien non-transparent institution, making rules only for itself without taking into account the actual citizens of the Member States. For this reason, I regularly invite schools, organisations and local constituents to the parliament to tell them about who I am and what I do. This is my way of trying to make people understand what the European Union is, what it can do better and what it should stop doing.

At 15 PM a joint ITRE and IMCO committee (I am member of both committees) is taking place on ‘online platforms and the digital single market’, which is very topical at the moment: it is important not to create new boundaries which would prevent the creation of new platforms, but at the same time the classic sectors should be respected. Immediately after this topic is closed, the regular IMCO committee starts, where I am speaking about parcel delivery and the European Accessibility Act.

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I am ending my day in Brussels with a shadow meeting on the geoblocking file, an intense meeting where the different political groups are trying to reach a compromise on different detailed aspects of the file.

By 18.30 PM I can finally commute back home, where I am just in time to spend some time with my children before sending them off to bed. To relax and forget the hectic workday, I work out on my cross trainer while, why not, replying to some more e-mails. By 23 PM I head off to bed for a good night’s sleep in preparation of a new day!

If you would like to learn more about Anneleen’s work visit her website http://www.anneleenvanbossuyt.eu/ or her twitter https://twitter.com/anneleen_vb?lang=en

 This Friday is the International day of safety and health at work. Your health at work is vital as it effects all aspects of your life. We look at stress and burnout in the workplace with the Community Help Service which is a non-profit organisation helping to solve a range of difficulties encountered by the people who turn to it in times of stress through therapeutic methods. You can see more of their work on their website here.

Mental Health in the Workplace

The World Health Organization defines positive mental health as “a state of well-being in which every individual realizes his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community. Employees with good mental health will perform better in their work.”

Work is excellent for both our mental and physical health. Research has consistently shown that good quality work can boost and protect health.

Features of working life that are known to promote mental health include:

  • Being valued at work
  • Having meaningful work
  • Being able to make decisions on issues that affect you
  • Being adequately trained for the work that you do
  • Having the resources you need to do the work
  • Having a job that is well designed and not overloaded
  • Having work that is well organised in terms of work schedules and time off

A further positive element of the workplace concerns organisational culture, which can be supportive of mental health and wellbeing. Elements of culture such as management and communication style can contribute to positive mental wellbeing. In addition, positive management practices in relation to such areas as participation in decision making and providing timely and supportive feedback can contribute positively to employee wellbeing. Another vital element is the promotion of a positive health and safety culture. Social support in the workplace is also essential – colleagues can help individuals share, cope with and overcome personal problems.

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The Great Brussels Bake Off with Chair of the CHS Board Geoff Brown (right)

Stress is not always a bad thing. Some stress helps one stay focused, motivated and meet new challenges in the workplace. However, when positive work features are missing or inadequate we find that satisfaction declines at work and consequently mental health is adversely affected. When stress exceeds one’s ability to cope, it stops being helpful and starts causing damage to one’s physical and mental health.

 

Burn out’ is currently a very popular diagnosis which is mostly used in the workplace, particularly by self-diagnosis. People like the diagnosis as it implies an excellent work ethic and makes the experience less personal.  Whereas it is an extremely helpful concept, reflecting contemporary unhealthy work circumstances and ways to improve them, it can also sometimes camouflage and distract from the more complex clinical picture of a given client. This means that it is very important that we give each presenting client particular attention to understand their particular psychological profile and differentiate burnout from more serious mental health concerns.

Christina Maslach is an eminent “burn out” researcher. She defines “burn out” by the presence of three symptoms:

  • emotional, mental and physical exhaustion (complete breakdown),
  • losing interest and motivation for work and
  • being inefficient at the work place.

 

At CHS we often see clients who are experiencing stress in the workplace. These clients seek our help at different stages. Some are just starting to feel overwhelmed by work demands; others are bordering on burnout and others come to us when they have already ‘burnt out’ and are physically and emotionally unable to return to work. We try to help them at each stage.

Typically we find that many young and ambitious employees will overwork, ignoring work life balance so that work becomes too central. This is often to the detriment of social life and even adequate self-care. Often these ambitious individuals will forgo social engagements, exercise and other necessary parts of daily life in order to work unreasonably long hours. Some work up to 18 hours a day. This is obviously not realistic or even humanly possible to maintain.

Some of the warning signs that we as clinicians at CHS look for are the following:

  • Feeling anxious or depressed
  • Anger and irritability
  • Sense of meaningless, pointlessness and loss of sense of purpose
  • Feelings of being unappreciated
  • Low energy /exhaustion
  • Anxiety, particularly feelings of panic
  • Memory problems
  • Concentration problems
  • Stomach problems
  • Social withdrawal
  • Loss of sex drive
  • Using alcohol or drugs to cope

 

How to prevent burnout?

Some useful tips to stay mentally healthy at work and prevent burnout include the following:

  • Clarify your job description – ask your supervisor for an updated description of your duties
  • Ask for new duties if work is becoming tired and has lost its challenge
  • Prioritize tasks, tackling high priority or more challenging tasks first
  • Break overwhelmingly large projects into small steps that are more manageable
  • Delegate responsibility and don’t try to do everything yourself
  • Be willing to compromise
  • Adjust perfectionistic or unrealistic work standards which set you up to fall short
  • Change negative focus which can drain your energy and motivation and try to see what is positive about your work
  • View work tasks as challenges and not as difficult obstacles to overcome
  • Ask for help by turning to your co-workers for support
  • Create a balanced schedule, making time for yourself to regain your energy reserves and prevent becoming depleted and plan regular breaks
  • Don’t over-commit yourself to doing work that you cannot manage
  • Take time off if burn out seems inevitable and make sure you recharge your batteries
  • Support your health with exercise – make time to exercise because activity that raises your heartrate and makes you sweat is a very effective way of lifting your mood, increasing energy, sharpening focus and relaxing both mind and body
  • Make considered choices regarding food such as minimizing sugar and refined carbs
  • Reducing your intake of food that can adversely affect your mood such as alcohol or caffeine
  • Eat more omega-3 fatty acids to give your mood a boost
  • Avoid nicotine and drink alcohol in moderation
  • Turn off screens an hour before bedtime – light emitted from phones and tablets suppress your body’s production of melatonin and may disrupt sleep
  • Replace stimulating activities with calming activities before bedtime

 

If you are feeling overwhelmed and exhausted to the point that you are no longer able to make the necessary changes to prevent a crash, you can call CHS to set up a confidential appointment with one of our therapists on (+32) 02 6476780.

Last week we announced our 10 negotiation principles and now that Article 50 has been triggered we felt it was due for a timely reminder as to what the priorities of our members are going to be during the negotiations.

WHAT BUSINESS NEEDS FOR A STRONG EU-UK PARTNERSHIP – 10 NEGOTIATION PRIORITIES

In order to underpin a stable, attractive and competitive European economy, the British Chamber of Commerce in Brussels (BCCB) have identified ten priorities that should underpin any future UK-EU relationship:

TRADE & INVESTMENT

Equivalent access and treatment: European businesses should be able to access the EU and UK markets, participate in trading mechanisms, trade and provide services across Europe under compatible and equivalent conditions, so as to maintain free and fair economic relations. A deep and comprehensive agreement should guarantee the new UK-EU relationship enabling mutual market access, compatible with EU rules on free movement of goods and services.  A close stable regulatory cooperation should ensure continuation of equivalence in standards and treatment. This includes continuation of tariff-free trading, simplified customs procedures, absence of duty rates and other restrictions, coordinated trade defences vis-à-vis third countries and tariffs and mutual preferential access to third countries’ markets, as well as open data flows.

Freedom of investment and establishment: UK and EU businesses should continue to participate in Europe’s economic life by enjoying mutual protection and unrestricted conditions of establishment and investment. An agreement should ensure that all entities engaged in economic activities, as well as movement of capital between the EU, the UK and third countries, are not subject to unjustified or unnecessary restrictions, for instance being able to rely on unhindered financing under stable equivalent conditions.

LABOUR MARKET

Skills, Qualifications & Employment rights: European businesses need to rely on the right skills at the right time and place, to ensure innovative and dynamic economies and support full employment, as well as on clarity on the rights of the workforce and related obligations of employers during the transition to a new UK-EU relationship. A system between the UK and the EU that provides adequate availability of these skills throughout Europe is a must, including through continued (and where possible enhanced) mutual recognition of professional qualifications in the new EU-UK relationship.

REGULATION & LAW

Competition: UK and EU businesses should benefit from healthy competition and a level playing field, in the interest of all European consumers, while embracing the opportunity provided by under the new relationship. An agreement should foster regulatory cooperation for continued alignment and equivalence in competition and M&A rules, to facilitate approvals, prevent abuses, limit compliance burdens, and ensure proportionality of antitrust investigations, as well as ensure close coordination on clearance of notifications.

Contractual relations and dispute settlement: European businesses must be able to maintain smooth contractual relations, without uncertainty as to the applicability of law in EU-UK cross-border situations, as well as benefitting from streamlined cross-border judicial procedures, certainty as to the competent courts and mutual recognition and enforceability of judgments, to safeguard attractiveness of EU-UK trade and investments.

Better Regulation: The principles of better regulation and proportionality should underpin the new EU-UK relationship and the agreements enshrining it, so as to avoid undue regulatory burden.

ENERGY & CLIMATE

To ensure a level playing field and respecting the principles of the Energy Union, under the new relationship the UK should have continued access to the Internal Energy Market (IEM) and commit to Europe’s climate goals.

TAX

In the negotiations towards a new relationship it should be ensured that the taxation of cross border trade and business activities does not become unnecessarily complicated or lead to double taxation. This applies in particular to the following tax matters: clarity in the application of the UK-EU VAT; keeping or reproducing frameworks that abolish tax impediments, such as the EU Arbitration Convention or legal frameworks on cross-border dividends within groups of companies; and maintaining a common system of taxation applicable to interest and royalty payments between associated companies from the UK and different EU states.

INNOVATION

IP and anti-counterfeiting cooperation: European businesses should be able to rely on continued consistency in the application of IP rules, including the application and protection of trademarks, designs, copyrights and patents. This should be complemented with anti-counterfeiting and anti-fraud cooperation between UK and EU authorities.

Innovation: UK and EU businesses have a shared interest in ensuring ongoing cooperation on knowledge exchange, research priorities and funding, and maintaining open participation in EU and UK R+I+D and education programmes.

 

Catherine Stihler has been an MEP since 1999 and is Vice-Chair on the Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection as well as a member of the Committee and the European Economic Area (EEA) Joint Parliamentary Committee.

Having been an MEP since 1999 and with two young children the hectic lifestyle of an MEP is something I am accustomed to.

I spend either three or four days a week in Brussels or Strasbourg and the rest of the week back home in Scotland; the structure of my day depends where I am.

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During Brussels weeks, my days are a combination of committee meetings, political group meetings and discussions with visitors from national governments, NGO’s, academia, campaign groups and many other organisations.  The day usually starts at 9am with a breakfast meetings and ends around 10pm after an event, a dinner discussion or, on occasions, a social dinner with colleagues.

In Strasbourg my diary is usually at its busiest.  I am in meetings, working groups, giving speeches and observing debates from 8, and often do not leave the Parliament until after 10pm.  It is in Strasbourg that we vote as a Parliament on legislation, one of the most important aspects of our work.  As whip for the UK Labour delegation, Strasbourg weeks are particularly busy for me as I discuss our position on all the files to be voted on with my colleagues.

Constituency weeks vary greatly.  Representing the whole of Scotland means I travel a lot.  I do everything from discussing digital skills in the Highlands to speaking to school pupils in the Borders.  I also have huge amounts of paperwork to deal with in relation to inquiries from constituents and accounts for my office in Inverkeithing.

Re-elected as VC IMCO

Regardless of where I am, there is the matter of the emails I receive each day.  I receive so many meeting requests that I cannot accept them all so work with my team to prioritise those which are of particular relevance to Scotland.  I am Vice Chair of the Internal Market and Consumer Protection Committee as well as a substitute member of the Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee, both of which cover issues which really matter to the people of Scotland.

The work of the European Parliament is more relevant to the people of Scotland than many realise.  In my committees, we cover everything from the cost of using your mobile phone abroad to safety standards for gas appliances.  A major priority for me this parliamentary term is to see concrete action to end the digital divide

The life of an MEP is busy and never boring.  My diary fills up months in advance and one of the best parts of my job is working together with colleagues from across the EU as well as concerned constituents, industry representatives and national experts.

If you would like to learn more about Catherine’s work as an MEP visit her website here or follow her on Twitter or Facebook.

We take a look into what a typical day of MEP Emilian Pavel from Romania looks like. Emilian has been an MEP since 2014 and is a member of the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs and Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs.

I am a big promoter of supporting young people at the beginning at their professional lives

It has become a common place to say this, but being a politician is definitely not a nine-to-five job. Actually, being a politician, an elected member of the European Parliament, is not a job. Without any exaggeration, I see it as a mission.

It is my mission to represent in the best way I can, and with all my energy, my little corner of Europe, that I love so much. It is also my mission to contribute with as much as I can to further develop and strengthen the European project.

I am not only a politician. I am also a citizen and a father, and what we achieve for our common future is as important to me as to any other European citizen.

ep-2As an IT engineer, I love discussing how technology can improve our lives 

You have already found out, reading about other fellow MEPs activities, that there is no day resembling the other. For this reason, I appreciate very much my team’s assistance and input and I start my days by talking to them, over a tea or coffee, about our priorities and objectives.

The time of our meeting depends on whether I have to attend a working breakfast or workshop at 8 AM or not. Usually I do. Being a morning person, I enjoy those events very much.

I always arrive at the Parliament full of energy and ideas because I honestly love what I do and I truly believe that as a Member of the European Parliament, I have a fantastic environment to bring a big contribution to our society. I am passionate about how we can best create opportunities for young people, how we can promote the teaching of coding, for example, how we can fight for equal chances for both women and men, on how we can better help people get the skills they need for the future, as well as many other topics. As an IT engineer, I have a pragmatic and structured approach to these policies and to all my work.

ep-4With now the former President of the European Parliament, Martin Schultz

After I meet my team, depending on what kind of week we are having in Brussels – those famous sessions, committees, groups, or mini plenary weeks marked with different colours on the calendar – I will focus my attention and energy on the goals that I have set for that day, and then for medium and long term.

Meeting people or organizations is very important to me. You learn a lot from listening to people and from asking the right questions. For this reason, I allocate time during the day, between a committee meeting and a seminar, to meet people that can offer a valuable input for the reports that I am working on. In addition, from time to time, I organize a hearing or a debate myself.

Then, there is also the part where that valuable input that I get needs to become valuable output from my side. I work a lot on reports on different topics. Amending a report might be a part of our work that is not very visible but it gives MEPs the opportunity to really bring their contribution to the process of building a better Europe for all of us.

ep-5EU and I, a competition for high school students, about the European values that I organize every year in Romania

It is already evening. Most of the times there is a conference or a working group to attend. By 8 or 9PM I try to evaluate my day, check my progress and prepare for the next, full and different day at the European Parliament. Before I go to sleep, around 11PM, there are always files to read, emails to write and yes, some reflection to do.

I love what I am doing, the people that I meet or work with and even if days are long and schedules busy, that mission that I was talking about gives me energy and motivation.

Finally, the sole purpose of all my activities in Brussels, Strasbourg or in my constituency during any given day is to help advance as much as I can our common project, a better and united Europe.

If you would like to learn more about Emilian’s work as an MEP visit his website: http://emilianpavel.ro/ [RO] or visit his facebook and twitter: https://twitter.com/PavelEmilian https://www.facebook.com/pavel.emilian

 

The British Chamber’s Annual General Meeting is set to take place on the 31st May, where the results of the President of the British Chamber will be announced. Following the changes in the articles of association, members will also be given the opportunity to vote for a new Council to be put into place.

Last year’s AGM, the British Chamber opened its doors to Chief Minister of Gibraltar Fabian Picardo who spoke about Gibraltar’s place in Europe. We also discussed the progress of the events organised in 2016.

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The formal agenda this year will allow us to report on the work that was done in 2016, as well as giving a summary of our financial performance for that year. It gives us a chance to discuss how that work has continued on into forming the programme for 2017 and the progress made in the current year.

We’ll also be taking a look at the big issues facing the chamber in 2017; the negotiations of the UK leaving the EU being the obvious example. We’ll discuss how the chamber is planning to aid you in this process and our strategy. Make sure you keep the date free and join us to discuss the progress we made as an organisation in 2016.

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The Annual General Meeting is a free event open exclusively to our members and attendees will be invited to stay a little longer for a networking cocktail. If you’d like to register, click here to visit our events page or contact Andrew (Andrew.moore@britishchamber.be)

 

 

dihk-dataGerman enterprises continue to believe in the European integration. The EU and its Single Market are fundamental for business. Based on the free movement of goods, capital, workers and services, which are all intrinsically tied to each other, it provides free trade by overcoming internal borders and regulatory obstacles. The United Kingdom’s decision to depart from the EU has lead to great uncertainty among German companies and must be prevented from becoming a precedent for other Member States. Especially SMEs now fear the setting up of burdensome trade barriers. The Brexit-negotiations thus need to strengthen the European integration while keeping EU-UK-relations as firm and as close to the status quo as possible.

Importance of the EU Single Market

Completing the EU Single Market is one of German businesses and thus DIHK’s top priorities. The further opening of markets combined with the removal of bureaucratic obstacles and barriers to trade in the EU creates prosperity and makes the benefits of the European Union visible to companies and citizens. While abolishing tariff controls nearly 50 years ago has spurred cross-border trade, increased mobility of workers is crucial for businesses to compete and excel with their products and services. An EU-wide level playing field as regards public procurement helps saving taxpayers’ money and the common application of EU-law gives enterprises much needed legal certainty. Furthermore, the Single Market ensures the EU‘s global competitiveness and increases its attractiveness as a place to invest. Given the worldwide emergence of new markets and competitors, this is more important than ever. The basic prerequisite to fully benefit from the Single Market is EU-Membership.

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German-UK relationship

Germany and the UK are closely connected both politically and economically. This close partnership should be preserved. The UK is Germany’s fifth largest trading partner. The total sum of imports and exports between both countries exceeds €127 billion. The UK is Germany’s third largest export-market after the US and France. More than 750,000 Jobs in Germany depend on trade with the UK. The UK-market is of particular importance for car-manufacturers, the chemical and pharmaceutical industry. Almost 15 percent of cars manufactured in Germany are sold in the United Kingdom. About 2,500 German companies have branches in the UK, employing about 400,000 British.

Furthermore, the UK and Germany are closely linked in the field of investment and banking. Therefore, investment protection should be a keen interest for both the EU and the UK. At the same time, it is hardly imaginable to have the central financial marketplace of the EU being based outside the Union.

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Which future for the EU-UK economic relationship?

Even with an EU-UK agreement that prevents new tariffs, additional bureaucracy will become necessary, e.g. formal notifications to customs authorities. Year by year, the German Chambers of Commerce and Industry issue millions of certificates of origin and other types of foreign trade documentation. When the UK will leave the EU, this will lead to a steep increase of these numbers. This administrative burden will hit German and British exporters. Especially small and medium-sized Enterprises often lack sufficient human and financial resources to tackle the new bureaucratic trade barriers. Thus, it should be in the interest of both sides, to keep burdensome measures as little as possible.

Furthermore, both sides should continue to pursue a forward-looking and open trade policy. Given the worldwide protectionist tendencies and policies on the rise, there is a mutual interest in a common approach to further expanding the rule-based multilateral system of free trade. Common initiatives for opening up world-wide markets would be excellent opportunities to underline the strong commitment of both sides towards each other.

The Association of German Chambers of Commerce and Industry (Deutscher Industrie- und Handelskammertag – DIHK) is the umbrella organization of 79 Chambers in Germany (IHKs) and the worldwide network of 130 business representations abroad. All companies registered in Germany, with the exception of handicraft businesses, the liberal professions and farms, are required by law to join a Chamber. Thus, DIHK speaks for more than 3,6 million enterprises.

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